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Wright v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 13, 2018

Stuart Wright Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
United States of America Defendant-Appellee John Clark; Walter R. Bradley, in his official capacity as the United States Marshal for the District of Kansas; Sean Franklin, in his official capacity as a Deputy United States Marshal and in his individual capacity; Deputy United States Marshals 1 - 10, in their official and individual capacities (names unknown at this time); Stacia A. Hylton, in her official capacity; Christopher Wallace, in his official capacity as a Deputy United States Marshal and in his individual capacity Defendants

          Submitted: March 16, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before WOLLMAN, SHEPHERD, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In the third iteration of this unfortunate case of mistaken identity, Plaintiff Stuart Wright ("Wright") appeals the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment to the United States and the Deputy U.S. Marshals in their individual and official capacities on Wright's claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (the "FTCA"). Wright argues that the district court erred when it found there was no genuine dispute of material fact and that, as a matter of law, the Marshals were not liable to him under the FTCA for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and assault and battery. We disagree and affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

         I. Background

         In 2008, Deputy U.S. Marshals with the U.S. Marshals Service in the District of Kansas began an investigation to locate and arrest Vinol Wilson ("Wilson"), who had been indicted by a grand jury in Kansas for conspiracy to manufacture, to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute cocaine base and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The Marshals had an arrest warrant for Wilson, and after learning that he was involved in a local Kansas City, Missouri basketball league, they planned to arrest him during one of the games. Sources told the Marshals that at 6:30 p.m. on August 15, 2009, Wilson would be playing basketball at the Grandview Community Center and that he would be wearing an orange jersey with the number 23. The Marshals also knew that Wilson was a black male body builder born in 1974. That evening around 6:45 p.m., the Marshals entered the gym in plain clothes and interrupted the game. With their weapons drawn, they approached a black male who was on the court wearing an orange jersey with the number 23 and told him to get on the ground. That man was Wright, not Wilson.

         Wright did not understand the Marshals' commands at first, and he stepped backwards away from them. One of the Marshals grabbed Wright's shirt and kicked at his legs. Another applied his Tazer to Wright's back. Once the Marshals subdued Wright, they asked him his name. Wright told the Marshals he was Stuart Wright, and one replied, "don't lie to me." The Marshals then arrested Wright, took him outside, and sat him in the back of a police patrol car. On the way to the car, a police officer told the Marshals that he knew Wright and that they had apprehended the wrong man. Wright's brother also brought Wright's identification to the Marshals to prove to them that he was not Wilson. The Marshals allowed Wright's brother to speak to Wright for a few minutes while still keeping Wright in custody. They then asked Wright a few questions about Wilson. After detaining Wright for 20 minutes, the Marshals released him and warned him that he had two traffic warrants he needed to resolve.

         In December 2010, Wright filed this action against the United States. The complaint included FTCA claims for (1) false arrest, (2) false imprisonment, (3) abuse of process, and (4) assault and battery. Following a series of motions and appeals, [2] the FTCA claims were the only ones left before the district court. The Marshals moved for summary judgment on those claims as well. The district court, relying heavily on our findings in a previous appeal in this case that dealt with Bivens[3] claims, found that the United States was entitled to summary judgment on each of Wright's FTCA claims. Wright now appeals.

         II. Discussion

         "We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Hinsley v. Standing Rock Child Protective Servs., 516 F.3d 668, 671 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "We will affirm the district court if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.

         Generally, the United States is immune from suit; however, the Federal Government may consent to be sued, as it did with the passage of the FTCA. Id. The FTCA provides that "[t]he United States shall be liable, respecting the provisions of this title relating to tort claims, in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances." 28 U.S.C. § 2674. The FTCA applies "to any claim arising . . . out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, abuse of process, or malicious prosecution" as a result of the "acts or omissions of investigative or law enforcement officers of the United States Government." Id. § 2680(h). The applicable tort law is "the law of the place where the act or omission occurred." Id. § 1346(b)(1). Because this incident took place in Missouri, Missouri's tort law applies.

         A. Genuine Issue of Material Fact

         Wright argues the Government was required to respond to the concise statement of material facts that he offered in response to the Government's original statement of uncontroverted material facts attached to its motion for summary judgment. Wright asserts that Mo. D. Ct. R. W. D. 56.1(c) ("Local Rule 56") states the Government "must" respond to Wright's list of material facts. Therefore, he claims that the district court should have deemed those facts admitted because the Government failed to respond. However, Wright mischaracterizes the rule. Local Rule 56.1(c) states that in response to a non-moving party's statement of material facts, "[t]he party moving for summary judgment may file reply suggestions." (emphasis added). The "must" to which Wright refers appears in the next sentence: "[i]n those suggestions, the [Government] must respond to [Wright's] statement of additional facts in the manner prescribed in Rule 56.1(b)(1)." Id. The word "must" does not command a response: rather, it directs how the Government should ...


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